HOT DISH: Kenny Chesney and Tracy Lawrence's Lasting Friendship

Former Roadrunners Have Shared Good Times and Bad -- and a CMA Award

(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by veteran columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel's Hot Dish: Cookin' With Country Stars, she also hosts CMT's Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith and shares her recipes at

There may be readers out there who don't dig Kenny Chesney as much as I do, but that's their stupid problem -- not mine. Some people like to criticize, and some people just simply don't like today's music as much as yesterday's.

Listen, there's no George Jones in the stable, and there ain't gonna be another Possum. God made him and threw away the heart-and-soul pattern of the greatest singer who ever lived. But we've got today's roster of artists, and it behooves us to look for the best singer singing the best songs.

Take Kenny. Kenny came to town to be a songwriter, but he seldom records his own songs. He records songs by full-time songwriters. Songwriters need to feed and clothe their kids, too. Kenny, George Strait, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and others depend on songwriters for their hits. In my opinion, they are wise. Not only are they pitched the best material in town, the songs are written by the best songwriters in the world. Who won the CMA album of the year award this year for It Just Comes Natural? King George did, and he did not pen one word on that album. Hey, his hit, "Give It Away," was named song of the year, and it was co-written by Buddy Cannon, Bill Anderson and Jamey Johnson. 'Nuff said?

Back to the man that is the focus of this story. In their younger days, Chesney, McGraw and Tracy Lawrence were wild as guineas and frequent running buddies. It seemed like they were trying to see who could out-crazy the other. Tim met Faith during their Spontaneous Combustion tour, and buddy, that beautiful diva clipped his wild wings right off the bat. Their marriage worked, and the couple became renowned and wealthy -- and parented three gorgeous daughters. I've often thought God must be their co-pilot.

Of course, by then, Tracy was marrying and still a tad crazy. Tracy and Kenny were still racing through the midnight hours when they weren't working. Tracy divorced (maybe twice, as I seem to recall) and finally met his current wife, Becca, who tamed him with the things love are made of -- kids and breakfast. By then, though, Tracy's big hits seemed to be history.

Meanwhile, East Tennessee's Kenny Chesney became the charmer of the hillbilly set -- with every song a hit, every album a huge seller and every concert filled to the rafters with screaming young girls. Taking home truckloads of money, he now owns buses, trucks, a home in the islands and his very own jet. He may be a millionaire, but at this year's CMA Awards, Kenny was emotional when Reba presented him his third entertainer of the year award. Still humble, he's still Kenny.

What about his pal, Tracy? Kenny is still hanging with Tracy. They've grown up, walk slower and probably sleep later than they used to, but they are still special pals. With all of Kenny's current success, it's obvious he was so proud to be a part of Tracy's No. 1 single, "Find Out Who Your Friends Are," the recording which also featured McGraw and won the CMA's musical event award.

Did you ever have a friend who would barely speak to you after they made it big? In show biz, it happens every day. It just made me so proud of Kenny that he proudly hung with Tracy at the CMAs when he could have just said "howdy" and walked away. I could name others who have walked away.

Country Wives and Their Sexy Husbands

I wonder if Nicole Kidman, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Faith Hill and Jennifer Turner think their husbands are one of the sexiest men alive. People magazine's latest issue says they are, but those are some sexy women married to Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw and Josh Turner.

A Possum of a Letter

I received a letter this week that thrilled me to death. Words cannot explain how I felt when I opened the envelope and realized the great George Jones had written me a note of thanks for attending his birthday party in September. Needless to say, I shall keep the letter until I die.

Loving Alan Jackson

I do love Alan Jackson and enjoy reading his fan club newsletter. His snapshot page with fans photos is always special. The latest issue was extra special. A lady from Australia sent a photo of a sign hanging outside her front door that reads: "Wipe your feet unless you are God or Alan Jackson." I think I can put music to that.

Charlie Daniels and Friends Helping Children

The 11th annual Christmas for Kids benefit concert set for Monday (Nov. 19) at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville is sold out. Artists lending their time and talent this year include Charlie Daniels, Montgomery Gentry, Taylor Swift, Rodney Atkins and Chris Young. It's such a good cause, too. Without crying, I can't tell you how tour bus drivers for the stars load up needy children from 25 area schools and drive them to an area Wal-Mart where the kids shop for clothes and toys. Don't even try and tell me there's no Santa. Charlie Daniels -- now there's another one of God's special people.

The White Book Arrives

My friend, Ken Mansfield, has finally released The White Book: The Beatles, the Bands, the Biz: An Insider's Look at an Era, a memoir of his days as U.S. manager of Apple Records, the Fab Four's label. Instead of concentrating on sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, Ken writes about what great musicians, songwriters and people they were. The White Book is an easy read that also includes Ken's memories of his visits to Nashville to work and play with Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, Johnny and June Carter Cash, Roy and Barbara Orbison, Tompall Glaser and others during their heyday. The cast of characters that crossed Ken's path also includes the Beach Boys, Dolly Parton, Glen Campbell, David Cassidy, Don Ho and me!

Toby's a Proud Okie

Harold Shedd, the man who signed Toby Keith to his first record contract, was one of those who helped induct Toby to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame recently. Also on hand were T.K. Kimbrell (Toby's manager), Curt Story (his booking agent) and Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry.

Lonestar for the Holidays

Had loads of fun with Lonestar in my kitchen shooting an episode of CMT's Southern Fried Flicks. The show airs in early December, so tune in and see the cute, new lead singer, Cody Collins, and the rest of the guys. Lonestar's new holiday CD is being sold exclusively at Cracker Barrel stores. Young girls, if you have designs on Cody, keep in mind that he's a cornbread-eating young man.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Good Rice.

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